If anyone had told us this time last year that we’d be in our third lockdown, our venues closed and everything that has happened since last March I don’t think that we would have believed them. It’s been a huge period of change both professionally and personally for us all and sometimes it can be difficult to see the positives that have arisen from this time.

For me one of the positives has been the community of practice that has been built through the One to One programme.

Being able to celebrate the successes of our amazing mentors and mentees, seeing the sharing of best practice and supporting each other through the ups and downs of the year has truly been a pleasure and an honour to be, even a small part, of this community.

Through our evaluation of the programme last October connection, development and professional confidence to support each other and the heritage learning sector were benefits highlighted by both mentors and mentees.

The encouragement to and ability to share good practice especially within a fast-changing sector; identifying both sector specific and transferable skill sets as well as considered development of learning programmes all serve to strengthen advocacy for learning.

“I’m … aware that the heritage industry faces lots of challenges at the moment and I am keen to develop my skills within learning and engagement to enable me to continue to work in the heritage sector, because I really believe that heritage has a role to play in people’s lives”                                        

Mentee application

Participants in the programmes described their roles as a large part of their own identity and that over the last year, whether furloughed or working from home, they had felt disconnected and isolated. Benefits for everyone involved included increased networking and professional confidence, in a time where remote working and/or furlough increased our sense of isolation.

It also helped us to understand the scale of change across the UK and Europe and as mentors we’ve had discussions about how we can use our experiences in this programme to support our everyday roles as managers and consultants.

“I’m using my learning from this in future planning at work for professional development programmes.”      Mentor

 

So what is mentoring?

The word mentor has so many connotations, a quick google search on the terms mentor and museums, you get everything from accreditation mentors, mentoring programmes for students and young people, the AMA, advisors and supporters. It’s no wonder that I at least can get a little confused about what this term means.

With so many different definitions of mentoring it was really important for us to have a shared understanding of what mentoring means for GEM.

As a group we have developed a shared understanding of what mentoring means for us, and where on the spectrum of mentoring and coaching that GEM wanted to be.

To be fair we’re somewhere in the middle of this venn diagram, using coaching questions to guide discussions and as museum educators ourselves we are firm believers that discovery and exploration of ideas is much better than us as mentors telling you what we think you should do, after all what works for one venue might not be best for yours.

Mentoring is a 1:1 development method that is mentee-led.

Our aim is to support people with learning roles in museums, heritage sites, galleries, libraries and archives at any level or stage of their career, with mentoring happening outside the line management structure and organisational boundaries. This helps you to articulate ideas and thoughts with someone who doesn’t have pre-conceptions about your venue, collections or offer who can be a trusted ‘critical friend’ knowing that we keep our conversations confidential.

All of the GEM Mentors are passionate about learning in museums and heritage and supporting others in their individual journeys of professional development.

As mentors we:

  • provide a safe, neutral, trusted space using reflection and questioning to explore and discuss creative solutions.
  • actively listen with empathy and an open mind.
  • are an unbiased sounding board for new ideas.
  • are willing to share their knowledge and experience.
  • guide and signpost to resources and opportunities.
  • create an uplifting, supportive and sharing environment that enables positive change and individual success.

Whilst we have many different experiences and skills, and can call on each other, mentors aren’t able to provide specific business, legal or direction support, although we can signpost you to other support if required.

 

We’re still learning

The last year has been a fascinating journey for me, and other mentors, as we developed our own skills and knowledge in mentoring and coaching. I’ve also had the chance to talk with the co-ordinators of other mentoring programmes for heritage, including a recent conversation with the co-ordinators of the Association of American Museum’s Education Committee’s mentoring program Education (EdCom) – American Alliance of Museums (aam-us.org). Talking about what mentoring means for both organisations and the changes and challenges that the heritage learning sector are facing both here and in the US was really inspiring and as their program is in it’s 6th year, the insight that they were able to provide was wonderful and thought provoking.

 

Would you like to be involved?

Applications for the next round of mentoring are open from 15th February at One to One Mentoring Programme – GEM

If you would like to find out more about our mentoring programme and/or are interested in becoming a mentor then do get in touch by emailing me at melissa@gem.org.uk